UCSC-SOE-11-21: A Theory of Color Barcodes

Homayoun Bagherinia, Roberto Manduchi
08/01/2011 09:00 AM
Computer Engineering
There is increased interest in the use of color barcodes to encode more information per area unit than regular, black-and-white barcodes. For example, Microsoft's HCCB technology uses 4 or 8 colors per patch. Unfortunately, the observed color of a surface depends as much on the illuminant spectrum (and other viewing parameters) as on the surface reflectivity, which complicates the task of decoding the content of the barcode. A popular solution is to append to the barcode a "palette" with the reference colors. In this paper, we propose a new approach to color barcode decoding, one that does not require a reference color palette. Our algorithm decodes groups of color bars at once, exploiting the fact that joint color changes can be represented by a low-dimensional space. Decoding a group of bars (a "barcode element") is thus equivalent to searching for the nearest subspace in a dataset. We also propose algorithms to select subsets of barcode elements that can be decoded with low error probability. Our experimental results show that our barcode decoding algorithm enables substantial information rate increase with respect to system that display a color palette, at a very low decoding error rate.